Written by: Frank Iacono
Donna Melanson, ERYT200/ RYT500, is an experienced yoga teacher who teaches weekly classes and special events in collaboration with businesses and corporations in the Boca Raton, Florida area. She has studied yoga principles for years but has been fully teaching since 2011.
Donna is the founder of Azul Yoga and Azul Yoga Institute. She recently graduated her inaugural class of yoga teachers who have been trained in the Melanson Method, which is an amalgamation of the best parts of her training in several yoga disciplines including Vinyasa, Restorative and Yin Yoga, Yoga Nidra, Pranayama, Vedic Thai Yoga, and Meditation.
In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Donna Melanson and asking her a few questions about her educational and professional background, her perspective on yoga, her wellness philosophy, her daily live video streaming Sunrise Beach Yoga and Meditation on Periscope and Facebook Live, her newly released book A Yogi’s Path To Peace: My Journey to Self-Realization and her podcast “The Silent Bit”.
The Creative Spotlight: How and when did you decide to embark in your profession as a Yoga Instructor and how many years have you been teaching?
Donna Melanson: I became a yoga teacher after years of pursuing all the things that I felt that I should be doing; Go to college, start a family, provide for that family, keep your head down, sacrifice, and work. Divorced, single for ten years, raising children as a single parent, while being self-employed left me feeling very empty. I was very successful in business and then I wasn’t, life happened, as it always does and I found myself reinventing my life. This time I told myself I going to recreate my life in the way I want to live and be in this world.
At the time I was reflecting and making my decisions I owned 100 acres in the mountains of North Carolina I would go there often and hike the land and commune with nature. It was the first time in many years that I would do something for myself and I felt truly happy and at peace. As I walked in the silence of nature I kept hearing the chant “Yoga! Yoga! Yoga!” in my head in the way they said, “Toga! Toga! Toga!” in the classic movie Animal House.
I wanted to practice yoga at the top of the mountain for some unknown reason. I didn’t know anyone who practiced yoga, and really didn’t know much about it. I must have talked about it a lot because a friend gave me a 30 min VHS gentle yoga tape and a too small too flimsy yoga mat. I started practicing every day and it left me in a deeper state of peace. A state that I could be in without having to go into the woods. I knew then that this was the path that I wanted to go in. This is how I wanted to live in this world. I’ve studied for years and have been fully teaching since 2011.
TCS: In your own words what is yoga? Additionally, please discuss for us some of the benefits yoga has for children, teens, and seniors?
DM: Yoga is the uniting of the body, mind, and spirit, and it’s this union that allows us to live in a more effortless state of being. When our body is settled, our minds become settled, it allows us to see clearly. In this clarity we connect to the spirit not only within ourselves, but we begin to see this divinity in everyone else as well.
Yoga is perfect for children, teens, seniors, anyone, and everyone at any age, at any level of fitness, or any ability to stretch. We all have to start where we are with what we have. The first yoga sutra states that yoga begins now. Meaning now in every present moment. Our yoga practice is about introspection, so we’re tuning in to ourselves discovering more about yourself. Noticing habits and patterns while connecting with the true nature of who we are. We practice these things on the mat doing the best that we can in that moment even if the best we can do is just show up and imagine doing the postures in our head that day. We show up, we practice, we get stronger in both our mind and body, and we practice these things on the mat so that we can take them off the mat and into our lives.
TCS: For the benefit of those who are not familiar with Donna Melanson or Azul Yoga, please share with us your education, certifications, training, and/or additional qualifications that you possess?
DM: I’m an experienced yoga teacher ERYT 200/RYT500 and have also had formal training in Yin, Restorative and Vedic Thai Yoga. I’ve had the opportunity and benefit of being with some of the top teachers in this country, I love my training and I love everything about my job, and I will forever continue to be a student of this practice.
TCS: How many different types of yoga do you teach and is there one specific style that you prefer and why?
DM: I teach Hatha, Vinyasa, Restorative, and Yin Yoga. I prefer the mindful meditative gentle approach to any style I teach.
TCS: As a Yoga Instructor what is your overall wellness philosophy?
TCS: What inspired you to write your first book entitled A Yogi’s Path To Peace: My Journey to Self-Realization and can you provide us with a high-level synopsis?
DM: Around the same time that I started practicing yoga my life was falling apart on every level and the feeling had been there for over 10 years. At the same time, I developed a yearning to share my story because I felt that deep down it would help others and in turn it helped me when the book was finally published.
This is where my story starts, in the middle of a crisis, on a mountain top where I hear a calling to practice yoga—developing a deep-seated belief that the practice of yoga would change my life.
I realized to become conscious you have to look at yourself in your entirety. I began by going back through the stories of what I had told myself through the years about life, marriage, children, my childhood and relationships. Doing this I became aware that the stories I told myself may have actually happened but then wondering did they really happen that way and do they still happen that way because we keep repeating the same stories in our mind and in our conversations. It’s as if it is a part of who we are but can we change the narrative, and do we really know what we want our story to look like. Belief is a powerful energy.
In this book, I share my life, so you can see what it looks like to change the way you think in order to change the way you live, in three parts: Know Yourself, Love Yourself, and Be Yourself.
Part One – Know Yourself: You need to begin where you are today. Through self-study and digging deep into habits, patterns, right perception, misperception, and the awareness of all things.
Part Two – Love Yourself: Demonstrates how to clear a path to living your best life through journal entries, blog posts, positive statements and yoga.
Part Three – Be Yourself: Living your truth, which leads to peace and happiness.
TCS: While writing the book, what surprised you the most and what did you learn from the overall experience?
DM: From writing the book, what surprised me the most was that this feeling that this was something I had to do versus something I wanted to do, and that the feeling never really went away.
TCS: In your opinion, what do you think draws people to yoga and specifically to participate in your program?
DM: I think people are looking for something when they find yoga. And, I’ve often wondered what drawls people to my program. Certainly, there are many instructors who are stronger and more adept in the postures, and certainly there are people who are more well versed in every aspect of yoga. But what some have told me it’s just who I am, and I only assume that they yoga has changed me and does affect every sense of my being, and that people feel that.
TCS: What advice do you have for people who have never tried yoga? And, why do you think some people may feel intimidated by yoga?
DM: I think many people are confused about yoga and I have to admit it can be a little confusing if you don’t know anything about yoga because now there are as many types of yoga as choices in types of food. A big difference between a scoop of white rice and a meal that may be served at a fine French restaurant. Many people come to me and think yoga is about stretching, and others think it’s more of a power exercise class, where you need a prerequisite in gymnastics to attend. So it’s no wonder it’s intimidating.
Truth is, just like finding what foods you like. You may have to try a few different styles of yoga, and then once you fine a style that resonates with you may need to try like chef’s different teachers to serve that style to you. Whatever style resonates with you will all help to lead you down the same path. Many studios offer yoga basic classes to help you get started. Just remember it’s your time on the mat. Pay attention to your own body and do what’s best for you.
TCS: In a class full of people with wildly different aims, how do you strive to keep everyone engaged and motivated?
DM: There are many factors that can keep people coming to your class or keep them away. All you can do is show up and give the best class that you can at the moment. With the intention that they receive everything that they need at that moment.
TCS: Can you describe some of the safety precautions you take during your yoga class sessions to prevent injuries?
DM: I’m not a doctor, although I do know a lot about anatomy, therefore I never ask people about injuries. If, however someone wants to talk to me about their injury before or after class I’m happy to talk to them about how they can accommodate to protect themselves. During class, if I witness someone struggling I let them know that they are free to come out of the pose. I give everyone permission listen to their bodies and to not do any pose or adjust as needed. Yoga as I said is about self-awareness. We need to learn to tune in and trust our innate intuition on what is best for us.
TCS: Can you please share some details about your podcast “The Silent Bit” and where we can find it?
DM: I created the “The Silent Bit” podcast because I continually felt compelled to send Peace out into the world. I was feeling overwhelmed and didn’t want anyone to every feel the way I felt and that is why I am still doing my daily LIVE broadcast on Periscope as well as the podcast.
As yoga and meditation teachers, we are a kind of like nomads moving around from studio-to-studio sharing our practice, doing our small part. While sitting in the silence, I became curious as to what brought other yoga teachers to the profession. I wondered what they were trying to teach or communicate? I thought it would be interesting to be led through a meditation session with new yogis as everyone brings something different to the table and we all learn in different ways by trying different styles of meditation.
I started this podcast late April 2020 and at the time of this writing, we’re currently being broadcasted in and have an audience in twenty-five different countries. So, I hope you all check it out. It can be found on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Anchor, Overcast, Google Podcast, Breaker, PocketCasts, and RadioPublic. So pretty much anywhere you listen to podcasts. Just search for, “The Silent Bit”.
TCS: Tell us how you discovered live video streaming on Periscope and describe for us your Sunrise Beach Yoga and Meditation?
DM: I’ve been streaming on Periscope for about six months. I started after moving to close to the beach a year and a half ago. I wanted to create the daily habit for myself of yoga and meditation at sunrise at the beach, a desire that come to me during my first yoga teacher training many years before. I started going to the beach every morning and it was so beautiful and t was so inspiring that I felt that I had to share. So, over a year ago I started posting photos to my Instagram account with inspirational sayings. While on the beach one morning I ran into a friend who told me about periscope. So, I began. That’s how things happen right, it’s about just showing up and just doing it, and you set the intention to help, and hopefully you do. Periscope has propelled me to a higher level. Broadcasting to people from all over the world suddenly gaining well over 20,000 followers and still growing.
TCS: Describe for us in greater detail the many benefits of some of the more common yoga postures including the following:
DM: Here are some of the more common yoga postures and their specific benefits:
- Alternate Nostril Breathing – We practice alternate nostril breathing to clear energy pathways. When the left side, which is the feminine side, is clear it brings us more peace and serenity. When the right side, the masculine side is clear it gives us more energy. So when we practice flowing back and forth alternating the nostrils, we balance and get that perfect blend of strength and peace.
- Child’s Pose – A relaxing posture that is great for digestion. The forward flexion massages the abdominal organs and helps release muscular tension along spine into the hips. It’s a great time to take a moment to honor yourself, honor your body, and your time on the mat.
- Downward Dog – Strengthens and stretches the legs, arms, and shoulders. Creates balance, integration, and grounding of the whole body. Helps to calm the nervous system.
- Gratitude Meditation Meditation – Is meant free our awareness from identifying with our thoughts and what we’re sensing. When we practice gratitude meditation or any meditation where we are concentrating on one thing, be it gratitude, our breath, or a mantra, it’s the first step in learning to have awareness in every moment but not to cling to our thoughts that keep popping into our heads. Aware that they are there but then letting go, as we focus our attention on one thing. Meditating on gratitude specifically allows us to shift our thought to all that is good and working. We shift our thoughts because our thoughts become words, and our words become actions, and our actions become our present reality. We want to live in a world where we have more things to be thankful for, so this where we need to begin.
- Lotus Pose Increases – Flexibility in the hips, legs, knees, ankles and feet. It strengthens the core and helps to develop good posture.
- Mountain Pose – Teaches us the basic alignment for all poses. You are grounded, and you pause here to witness your conscious thoughts with detachment.
- Plank – Strengthens your overall body especially your core.
- Tree – Strengthens the legs and your core for balance.
- Warrior – Helps to increase flexibility in the hips and shoulders, strengthens the core. In fact, all muscles are engaged as they are in every pose, but they’re softened after engagement. We want a little bit of movement in a lot of places. We want all muscles involved and working. So here in this warrior pose is a great place to feel the strength of the warrior and the peace of the yogi. Strong but soft.
TCS: Are there any celebrated situations where you feel you’ve made a huge impact in someone’s life?
DM: I can’t really speak to how huge an impact I’ve made on other people although I have had people come up to me, call me and write me in gratitude. But I can speak to the huge impact I’ve made on my own life. I once looked on the outside as a very lucky and successful person. I had money, cars, and many other “things”, but I wasn’t happy, and I tortured myself in my mind with thoughts. That’s what yoga did for me, and it’s why I want to share and teach. I know that happiness starts here, and I want everyone to get to this place of peace.
TCS: What is your personal mantra and how does it sum up your life?
DM: My personal mantra is So Hum. So Hum is a Hindu mantra, meaning “I am She/He/That” in Sanskrit. I am on the sense that we are connected to all things.
TCS: What is the best way to stay connected to you and your company?
I invite you to stay connected with me on the following social platforms:
- Donna Melanson Website
- Donna Melanson LinkTree
- Donna Melanson Facebook
- Donna Melanson Twitter
- Donna Melanson Periscope
- Donna Melanson Instagram
TCS: For those suffering from low self-esteem and deep-rooted emotional issues what specifically do you bring to the table to help them discover and/or focus on making improvements to their overall health and well-being?
DM: That’s a big question, and again I’m not a doctor, but I do know what helped me, and I do believe that the practice can help anyone. There are 8 limbs to yoga, and when we have time to dive deeper into these limbs, they all help to get us to that place of peace and self-acceptance. Our minds and bodies are connected so when we practice the totality of yoga. The breathing, the physical practice the mindfulness, the meditation, the observances and restraints. We not only become stronger physically but mentally.
The photography shown in this article was shot by Andrea Blakesberg Photography.
About Frank Iacono
Since 2012, Frank Iacono has served as the President and CEO of The Creative Spotlight, the ultimate destination for unearthing a wealth of undiscovered musical talent, reading exciting interviews, releasing new music and sharing exclusive videos.
Every good story needs a good storyteller. And, The Creative Spotlight has truly provided a quality forum for revealing those great stories. Through the years, the online publication has featured national and local musicians such as Screaming For Silence, Ages Apart, Roxy Petrucci, Peter Beckett, We The Kings, Everything Falls, Rod Black, Derek Crider, Daniel Mason Band, Michelle Leigh, Jessie G., Karen Mansfield and Hillbilly Vegas. Additionally, we’ve also focused on historic Pennsylvania-based paranormal venues, well-known actors and actresses, published authors, professional artists, local businesses, consultants, trainers, speakers and more…
Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he earned his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.